FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2021

CONTACT:  Chad Oba: (434) 806-6332, chado108@icloud.com

Buckingham, VA. Residents living near the site of gold exploratory drilling are feeling some reprieve from the pressures of the prospects of large-scale surface gold mining in Virginia. Since discovering the drilling in June 2020, which had been taking place in violation of the county’s ordinance,  very concerned neighbors have been educating themselves and sounding the alarm about the potential extensive poisoning of the waters of our Commonwealth. Many thanks to Delegate Guzman for sponsoring this bill and getting it across the finish line.

Chad Oba, President of Friends of Buckingham: “Friends of Buckingham, (FoB) as the on the ground grassroots organization, is greatly relieved that this bill was signed into law by Governor Northam.

An open pit gold mine would put a huge health and resource burden on nearby communities here in Buckingham. We have heard promises of economic growth and jobs, but we  know from research into other similarly sized gold mining ventures that the jobs are few and often staffed by out of state workers. We also know that economic growth is limited to the number of years a mine is in production and leaves huge financial deficits of unreclaimed devastated land for hundreds of years, polluted waterways and numerous ecosystems, including fisheries, destroyed. No amount of bonding can cover these costs. The taxpayers will be left to pay for the mess left.

There are many unanswered questions. It is appropriate to assess whether open pit gold mining should be permitted in the commonwealth of Virginia. Buckingham is ground zero,  but the gold pyrite belt runs from Fairfax to Halifax. Allowing permitting to go forward without making a close analysis of what is at risk is absolutely imprudent.”

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, District 31, sponsor of HB2213: “The passage of HB 2213 means Virginia is taking a big step forward toward better understanding the impacts that gold mining has on our environment, public health, and the miners themselves. I want to thank the Friends of Buckingham for their extraordinary efforts and tireless advocacy to protect their community time and time again. I look forward to our continued work together to ensure that Virginia’s people and water are not harmed by the toxic chemicals used in modern-day gold mining.”

HB2213 “directs the Secretary of Natural Resources, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to establish a work group to study the mining of gold in the Commonwealth. The bill requires that the study be conducted in consultation with the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice and appropriate stakeholders, including experts in mining, hydrology, toxicology, and other fields; environmental organizations; representatives of potentially affected communities in localities with significant deposits of gold; and residents of Native American communities in such counties.

The bill provides that the work group shall evaluate the impacts of gold mining on public health, safety, and welfare; evaluate whether existing air and water quality regulations are sufficient to protect air and water quality from the mining and processing of gold; and evaluate whether existing bonding, reclamation, closure, and long-term monitoring of sites for such mining or processing are sufficient.”

There are 4 main, well documented ways this industry assaults our health and environment:

  • Toxic particulate matter release into the air from the mountain of pulverized ore. There is 99.99% waste in this process!
  • Dewatering of large scale mines draw down the surrounding water table – for miles around.
  • Very large cyanide mine waste lagoons leech poisons into the aquifers.
  • High percentage of catastrophic mine waste dams fail, releasing millions of tons of toxic metals downstream.

 

Kenda Hanuman, Friends of Buckingham gold committee co-chair: “The  work study group required by the bill must equitably include input and representation from the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice; experts from beyond only Virginia agencies in mining, hydrology, toxicology, and other relevant fields; environmental organizations; representatives of potentially affected communities in localities with significant deposits of gold; and residents of Native American communities in such counties.”

William Perkins, deacon of the Warminster Baptist Church, across the street from the drilling:  “Speaking on behalf of the the Warminster Church community we are pleased to learn today that HB2213 was signed by Governor Northam. Our neighborhood is a 154 year old African American church  community. The majority of our members are lifelong residents with ancestral ties in the immediate area which is currently being targeted for gold mining. We also share the same aquifer with our Freedman settled Union Hill  neighbors.

Vulnerable communities like ours should not suffer the burdens of the unexamined consequences of open pit gold mining. We have a right to be free from ecological devastation that would disproportionately impact our health, our water sources and our way of life. This would be environmental injustice.  We look forward to having our voices represented and heard in the study.”

Stephanie Rinaldi, co-chair of FoB gold committee, living next door to the drilling site: “I’m so grateful to the governor for signing this bill into law. My neighbors and I are still deeply concerned about the exploration happening a mile from our homes, and it gives us a bit of hope knowing that Virginia will be looking into how this industry would be harmful to us and the rest of Virginia’s residents.”

Friends of Buckingham has been working with other concerned conservation groups across the state as the gold pyrite belt bisects the Commonwealth: Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Appalachian Voices, Piedmont Environmental Council, Virginia Conservation Network, Southern Environmental Law Center, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Sierra Club. Please see Friends of Buckingham website for resources, including several educational webinars, a short video, maps. Chemicals know no boundaries! We all have a fundamental right to clean water.

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